We visited Nuno founder Sue Kingma recently to find out more about her Mossball passion.
Andreas Keller: When did you start making Mossballs?
Sue Kingma: In 2013. At the time, I had a handmade felting business and started experimenting with hanging felt planters, crafted around 2 liter cooldrink bottles. That made me look into vertical gardening. When I saw Mossballs [Japanese kokedama], I was sold!
AK: What happened next?
SK: I bought some beautiful fynbos plants and watched as many How-To YouTube videos that I could find. I've got a dog with a bone attitude - I taught myself and kept trying, until I got it right. Needless to say however, I dispatched most of the first mossballs to heaven! I had to learn which plants survived and which weren't suitable for mossballs…
"...I've got a dog with a bone attitude..."
AK: What is it that you like about Mossballs?
SK: I like their roundness. I like that they are encased in moss. I like the design aspect. I love their whackiness. I like the paradox: a plant, which usually grows in the soil, is suspended in air.
AK: What's your favorite plant to tie into a Mossball?
SK: The Zygocactus. It's an exquisite plant, so shapely. And then it has these stupendous pink blooms. Breathtaking!
AK: Are there any others?
SK: I like big ferns as well, especially Asparagus Sprengeri.
AK: What is the toughest plant to make up into a Mossball?
SK: Hen & Chickens, it is very fragile. And anything with hanging fronds or flowers…
AK: What plant are you dreaming of putting into a Mossball?
SK: Rhipsalis. Hoya. Rabbit’s foot fern. I'm also sold on Nepenthes [Carnivorous Pitcher Plants].
AK: What inspires you?
SK: Beauty, good design, green spaces, mountains, I love the outdoors.
AK: You haven't mentioned once that this is a Japanese Tradition.
SK: Yes, I know [laughs]. The tradition is over 200 years old. Mossballs emerged from Bonsai, which originally grew in containers, until they were so encased in moss hat they did not need a container. Then instead of growing the plants in pots, artisans started to form the balls for décor…
AK: How have you made this Japanese tradition your own?
SK: By using South African Plants; using local or African moss - I use Swazi indigenous moss a lot. And I have developed my own soil mix, made of 4 varying ingredients... but that is my secret [laughs].
AK: What's next for you?
SK: I'll always be looking for something different. I keep trying new plants and seeing what works well. My customers inspire me and strive me to try new things - this or that quirky or challenging plant. I've tried a fair share of plants. But there's an entire Plant Kingdom left to try. I've got some inspiring work cut out for some time still…!
Sue gave us an insight into the Mossball creation process:
Sue designed a range of 8 Nuno Mossballs which we now stock as a standard range on Plantify. We'll add seasonal, quirky variants every now and again. Be sure to check out the Nuno Mossball Collection.